Horror movies love to torture influencers, and a tiny part of us grins along the way.
No, we don’t want social media maestros to be hurt, or worse, but it’s oddly cathartic to see digital divas get their comeuppance. Mocking these entrepreneurs is almost too easy, one of several problems that plague the aptly named “Influencer.”
Yet the film offers an early, ripe twist and a third act that demands our attention (while we aggressively suspend disbelief).
Young/pretty/soulless Madison (Emily Tennant) is vacationing in Thailand for the pleasure of her Instagram flock. She’s everything you expect in an influencer – vain, shallow and deeply dull. She bonds quickly with a stranger named CW (Cassandra Naud) who saves her from being hit on by an older gent.
Suddenly, Madison has a new tag-team partner to soak up the sights and give feedback on her Instagram posing. Thank you, CW!
Sharing what happens next deposits us into Spoiler Territory, and the best way to savor “Influencer” is to know as little about the plot as possible.
There are deceptions, jealous boyfriends (Rory J. Saper), other influencers eager to soak up Thailand’s natural beauty and more.
Too much of it is perfunctory, even dull. That’s partly due to the nature of influencers, who live down to their reputations through much of the film. That may offer some satirical snap, but it leaves audiences hungry for endearing characters.
A little back story on their lives, and flaws, would have helped.
Much of the story hangs on CW, but Naud doesn’t give her character the necessary layers, or edge, to leverage the growing mystery afoot. She seems dead inside, and while that might speak to our digital age it hardly helps us understand her motivations.
Saper’s character also infuriates. He’s introduced as a cad, someone not worth anyone’s time. Later, his personality morphs dramatically, and the tonal snap isn’t convincing.
— Sean Rhodes (@_Sean_Rhodes) May 26, 2023
Director/co-writer Kurtis David Harder (along with Tesh Guttikonda) know how our lives are shaped by social media. They take advantage of that truth and how vulnerable we are to those who twist it to their advantage.
That means the film’s villain can turn Instagram into a weapon even more terrifying than Freddy Krueger’s claws. Sorry, Freddy, there’s a new Nightmare in town.
Their grasp of 21st-century culture means “Influencer” feels more raw, and relatable, than your standard-issue slasher film. At its best, the film reminds us how we all flirt with danger by exposing ourselves to the whims of the social media crowd.
Most genre films deliver endings we see miles away, but that’s hardly true for “Influencer.” The last 10 minutes are tight and exhilarating, with one last surprise that works best the less you think about it.
You may never look at a perfectly coiffed Influencer the same way after this imperfect, but intriguing thriller.
(It’s worth noting the film is set in Thailand but we see very few locals on screen. That may draw the ire of woke critics, or it could be a purposeful framing to further mock vacuous influencers.)
HiT or Miss: “Influencer” suffers from dead spots and sporadic tension, but it’s fresh enough to gin up our interest just when it matters most.